YOUTH & FAMILY WELLNESS

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CHIJIOKE ORANYE - PATTERSON PARK, WEEK 6

have 2 weeks left, I keep telling myself. How can I make the most of it? It’s weird, not only is it going to be 99 degrees this next 2 weeks, but I’m also moving from Baltimore to Baltimore county. I’ve never moved in my life since I immigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. and that was 10 years ago. I’m scared. I’m scared because my father and my brothers lack communication. I’m scared because I’ve already spent 10 years fitting in to my neighborhood in Chinquapin Parkway. I’m scared because it takes me an hour and 30 minutes to get to work, when I live in the city…but now that I live even further in Baltimore county how much longer will it take?
I know this week will be challenging for me. And my biggest advice to myself is to take things bit by bit. Sometimes I feel as though prioritizing my kids at the camp over all else will force me to spend less time having my family move. And although this can’t be helped to a certain extent, I feel like I’ll be losing bonding time with my family. But I got to take things bit by bit.

EILEEN RAMIREZ - ESPERANZA CENTER, WEEK 6

Last week we had these two boys come in to see the doctor. They were close in age, maybe two or three years apart, and behaving as brothers typically do – hitting each other, messing around, and listening to their mom when she tells them to stop for a total of five seconds before starting up again. I couldn’t help but laugh at their antics and wonder if that’s what my own brothers were like. Due to our large age gap, I didn’t get to know my brothers as kids, only as pre-teens or really even as teenagers and now adults. So seeing the two boys, for me, was like getting a glimpse at what life was like way back then pre-my-existence.

Then the mom asked to speak with Wardi who handles patient referrals and stuff of that nature at the clinic. And then the mom started sharing the story of how the older of the two boys was bullied at school and during one instance, had to be taken to the emergency room because his injuries were so bad. Then the boy talked about how he kept getting picked on afterward, how the teachers knew what happened but they didn’t care for him so no one did anything. Next thing I knew, Wardi was asking him things like, “does any teacher there speak Spanish,” and “do you know what bullying is”. Finally, she showed me his report card with not-so-great grades but every teacher commenting how they know the boy can do better.

So here was this boy being bullied for being a Latino immigrant whose first language is not English, who lives in a neighborhood where there are barely any Latinos, who has to go back to that school unless they somehow get the money to be able to move, who isn’t getting the help he and every other kid in this situation deserves.

And all I could think was, this could have easily been my brother.

AYESHA SHIBLI - MARYLAND OUT OF SCHOOL TIME NETWORK, WEEK 6

This past weekend I had a conversation with a friend’s aunt which reminded me yet again why I love what I do. She spoke to me about her children’s love of reading, and the family’s emphasis on reading together and reading aloud. I then told her about my position as a counselor with SummerREADS, explaining that it was these key elements of literacy that drive organizations like MOST to bring these experiences to everyone, regardless of income or family structure.

I am very aware of my own privilege each time I walk into my school and say good morning to my students. My childhood summers were not spent in my elementary school but rather in summer programs my mother registered me for, all of which prevented me from the feared “summer slide” common among students who do not have access to such programs outside of school time. My love of reading was built upon these summers which gave me the opportunities to be exposed to new materials through trips to my local bookstore and library. I realize this experience is not something I can recreate in a single summer with every student, but I have been pushing myself to help create a space that builds a love of books in my students.

Of course, this is a little difficult when I’m faced with students who struggle with reading or are just not interested. How do I share my passions without it seeming foisted upon them? How do I stress that love it or not, literacy is an extremely important skill for all areas of life, without my privilege coloring my understanding of the world? One of the most important lessons I learned this summer came from one of the program coordinator of SummerREADS, Tanisha Owens. As I was sitting with a student who was holding a book above her reading level, Tanisha reminded me that there are three main ways for a student to read a book: 1) actually reading it, 2) “rereading” a book by memorizing the words or the story and following along or 3) looking at the pictures to understand the story or create a new one. Each of these ways, she said, keep the student physically engaged with the book, get the student interested.